Skip to main content

Full text of "The Cambridge Natural History"

See other formats

vm                     N&OMYLOnON OR GLOSSOTHER1UM                  I 8 I
The well-known naturalist of La Plata, Senor Moreno, engaged
in studies connected with the political boundary line between
Chili and the Argentine, had occasion to visit Consuelo Cove
on Last Hope Inlet in Patagonia. Hanging from a tree he
noticed a piece of dried skin., which at once struck him as looking
more like the remains of a Mylodon than of any living animal.
The inhabitants regarded this piece of skin as a great curiosity,
bufc were of opinion that it was the hide of a cow encrusted with
peebles! This fragment from a bygone age was originally
described by Professor Ameghino, who had apparently seen some of
the bonelets imbedded in it, as Neorrvylodoii listed,  a living
representative of the ancient Gravigrade Edentates of Argentina/*
That this piece of skin, is of quite recent date seems to be proved
by a number of considerations. In the first place it is covered
by long hair of a light yeEowish-brown colour; it does not seem
likely that hair would preserve its character for geological epochs.
The nearest corresponding case is that of the remains of Moas in
New Zealand, whose feathers, dried skin, and tendons are known.
]STow the Moa "was unquestionably contemporaneous with man, as
abundant surviving legends prove, and indeed it cannot have been
long extinct. Still, hair is a resisting structure, and in a dry cave^
with no possibility of irruptions of floods, might retain its characters
for long periods. The evidence, however, of more recent date is
stronger than this. The skin shows patches of reddish colour, sugges-
tive of course of blood-stains. A small piece of the outside of the
skin at the cut edge., which presented the appearance of freshly
or comparatively freshly dried fluid, was submitted to a chemical
examination and shown to be serum ! Dr. ILdnnberg examined
chemically a bit of the skin itself and found in it, after boiling,
glue, ** which proves that the collagen and gelatinous substances
are perfectly preserved." After this it seems impossible to suppose
that the skin can be of any very great age ; for bacteria would
have finished their work upon the serum and gelatine long ago.
Combined with the fresh appearance of the skin is the very
fresh appearance of the skull. In fact it is impossible to believe
that the animal was not alive quite a few years since, relatively
speaking. It is admitted that this animal was contemporaneous
with man. There are actually legends of a creature which may
have been this Glossotherium. "Ancient chroniclers inform us
that the indigenous inhabitants recorded the existence of a